Forget ‘low cal’ options – if you want to stay healthy, have a proper beer and keep away from the chocolate.
That’s the view of Zoran Gojkovic, director of research strategy from the Carlsberg Research Centre in Copenhagen, who rocked up to Reddit a couple of weeks ago with his colleague, master brewer Thomas Paludan- Müller, to take part in one of the site’s sometimes notorious AMAs (that’s Ask Me Anything for the Reddit n00bs out there).
The discussion, which can be found here, is a somewhat interesting read – at least if you’re into the technical details of beer production.
What’s more interesting perhaps is that Carlsberg, the world’s fifth largest brewer, should allow the flea-ridden citizens of the internet any access to its people at all.
Yes, every major company and institution in the world now has a large online presence, and it’s no longer notable to see a brand using Twitter and other platforms to generate a bit of that much sort-after ‘personality’, as Sainsbury’s did when it got into this fishy exchange with a customer last year. But however many grumpy mouths might have twitched at the corner as a result of the retailer’s Twitter pilot going off script, it never put itself in a situation that risked spiralling out of control.
Reddit is a different beast, however, and the controls-free nature of an AMA has left more than one high profile celeb with cheeks redder than a Wimbledon snack without the cream. Barack Obama himself may have done an AMA back in 2012, but it’s still a big risk for a huge company with an image to protect and shareholders to keep happy.
Luckily, the Reddit hoardes were kind to Gojkovic and Paludan-Müller, who were offered lots of gentle questions on how to get into brewing, the management of yeast strains, and time travel. They politely ignored a few, so we’ll sadly never find out which of them can chug a pint fastest, or whether either think they could beat a lumberjack in a beard growing contest. Overall, the two men came out of the exercise looking like clever scientists with a huge passion for their work and a good dollop of that elusive personality – so I’d say it went about as well as it could have from Carlsberg’s point of view.
Could other big consumer-facing corporations follow Carlsberg’s lead and take steps to genuinely make themselves more accessible on a human level? I believe it’s clearly in their interests to do so, and an exchange I had this week offers a good example of why.
A friend, having read this article about Kronenbourg’s new digital campaign on Facebook, pointed out to me what he took to be a mistake. “Why is the Heineken brand director delighted about the success of their competitor, Kronenbourg?” he asked. I explained Kronenbourg was, in fact, distributed in the UK by Heineken (while in France it is distributed by its Danish owner, Carlsberg) – and he responded by lamenting “the fluid nature of supposedly national brands that are in reality just empty shells that use national stereotypes to sell fizzy **** water.”
The problem is: for consumers who value heritage and provenance, finding out accidentally that your favourite product is owned by a global company based somewhere else is likely to cause mistrust and disappointment. These outcomes might be avoided, though, if the business in question isn’t seen as faceless entity, but run by human beings that care about what they do. That’s exactly what Carlsberg managed to do in its AMA.